COVID-19: Making an Unmarried Partner Visa Application Under Lockdown
Every year, many individuals from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) receive immigration permission to enter the UK to live with their UK based partner. This also applies to unmarried couples. This is possible because, under UK immigration rules, a person who is not married or in a civil partnership can join their partner who is settled in the UK. The current challenge, however, is that due to Coronavirus lockdowns around the world, UK immigration application centers are closed, and millions of people are unable to leave their own countries. In this article, we will consider the latest advice for anyone in this difficult situation.
How is COVID-19 affecting applications for unmarried partner visas?
COVID-19 and the lockdowns currently in place around the world are having a significant impact on applicants and their loved ones. Many individuals have been and remain unable to leave their home countries to be with their UK partners due to local and national travel restrictions. Furthermore, most international Visa Application Centres (VACs) are closed – for further information, please see the TLS contact website if you’re in Europe, Africa, and parts of the Middle East, or the VFS global website for all other countries. If you are able to enter the UK having been given leave to enter, you should note that at present there is also a requirement to self-isolate for fourteen days on arrival.
For those who are currently in the UK who would have normally been required to return to their home country to apply for an unmarried partner visa, under new COVID-19 related guidance from the UK home office, you can currently apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa (this only applies up to the end of May 2020 – however this may be extended further).
Another area of concern is where the financial requirements for the UK based spouse can no longer be met due to COVID-19 related financial problems. Unfortunately, job losses and reduced income have become a reality for many in the UK. No clear guidance has yet been issued by the Home Office on this matter and at present, the minimum income requirement must still be met.
Related Article: Read ‘Non- EEA unmarried partner visa frequently asked questions (FAQs)’ here
What is the unmarried partner visa?
The unmarried partner visa is part of the UK family visa route and allows non-EEA unmarried and same-sex couples who have been in a committed and serious relationship with a settled person in the UK to enter and live with their partner. The UK based partner (also referred to as the sponsor) must either be a British citizen, be settled in the UK with permanent residency, have indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or settled status (i.e. for EEA nationals), or have UK humanitarian protection or refugee status. In addition, the Home Office guidance SET05 states “the rules on unmarried and same-sex partners also apply to partners of sponsors in the UK who have limited leave to enter or remain in the following categories:
- Work Permit holders,
- overseas media representatives,
- sole representatives,
- private servants in diplomatic households,
- overseas government employees,
- Ministers of Religion,
- airport-based operational ground staff,
- UK Ancestry,
- businessmen / businesswomen,
- artists and
- retired persons of independent means”
An unmarried partner visa does not allow the holder to remain indefinitely, however, once five years of continuous residence in the UK has been reached, it will then be possible to apply for ILR.
Am I eligible to apply for an unmarried partner visa?
In order to apply for an unmarried partner visa, you must have been in a relationship with your UK based partner for at least two years, and you must both be 18 years or over and intend to live in the UK for the long-term (i.e. there is a clear commitment from both parties that they will live together permanently in the UK immediately following the outcome of the application). You will also need to demonstrate that:
- you meet the English language requirements
- you can financially support yourself and your dependants - your UK based partner must earn at least £18,600 per annum (or has this amount in savings) – if you have children, a further £3,800 is required for the first child plus £2,400 for each additional child who is not British, settled or an EEA national
- you must have suitable accommodation available for you, your partner and any dependants
When submitting your application for an unmarried partner visa, it will be essential that you provide sufficient evidence that you have been in a long-term relationship with your UK based partner which is akin to marriage / civil partnership. The guidance used by case officers to decide unmarried partner applications states that applicants are required to provide “six pieces of correspondence addressed to him/her and their partner at the same address as evidence that they have been living together during the past 2 years. The items of correspondence should be addressed to them jointly or in both their names. If they do not have enough items in their joint names, they may also provide items addressed to each of the other individuals if they show the same address for both of them. The documents provided must be originals and should be spread over the whole 2 years; they should also be from at least 3 different sources”. Such evidence may include correspondence relating to bank accounts, investments, rent agreements, mortgages, council tax bills, or utility bills.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is placing partners who are unable to be together under considerable emotional strain. While it is hoped that the immigration system will start to return to a semblance of normality in the near future, it is still not clear when this will happen. Each country has its own rules on travel, and some may not lift travel restrictions for many months to come. If you are unsure of your position, speak to immigration solicitors. They will listen to the details of your case and advise on your best course of action.
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